Preparing the sample takes about 45 minutes. A little water is added to the frozen brown mass and blended with a hand mixer until the substance is just thicker than a milkshake. The next part takes less than five minutes: A syringe collects the slurry, then puts it into a plastic catheter pushed a few inches into the rectum—and presto, a fecal transplant is complete. Officially known as "fecal microbiota transplantation," the procedure can legally be performed by doctors in the US only on patients with recurrent Clostridium difficile bacteria, given research that shows it to be an effective treatment, reports BuzzFeed in a feature. But one "rogue clinic" in Tampa, Fla., skirts the law by offering self-administering tutorials to those who believe good bacteria in a donor's poop will cure their Crohn's disease, obesity, or autism, among other conditions.
Some trials have backed up their claims—a small, limited study released in January found children with autism who received fecal transplants had fewer digestive issues and improved communication after two months—but the evidence is far from concrete and the long-term effects aren't known. Until unknowns are answered, the Tampa clinic's founder sees his tutorials as safer than people following how-to videos on YouTube, particularly as the fecal samples he buys for roughly $40 each (recipients pay for a $1,000 three-session tutorial) are tested for infections that could be harmful to recipients. Safer, yes, but out of budget for many, says the founder of the non-profit Fecal Transplant Foundation. Concerning her are reports of people inserting coffee, pickle juice, and even dog poop into their rectums at home. More on that here. (Read more fecal transplant stories.)